Best of 2011: Albums of the Half-Year

Best of 2011 albums

I want to open this with the mild disclaimer that debating whether or not an album is good is like arguing over whether someone ought to like rocky road ice cream or brussel sprouts: passion-rousing, divise, more than a little silly. (Arguing about why: the world’s most interesting pursuit.) If you don’t like these records or like other records more, I salute you; still, I believe the ones I’ve chosen have enough value to recommend that you give them a try, or two, or 10. Music tends to sound better that way, in case any of us have forgotten.

Many of 2011’s most anticipated and most discussed releases have left me moderately charmed at best. “Often likable” is the kindest description I would currently extend to James Blake, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver, Tennis, Bright Eyes, Smith Westerns and tUnE-yArDs; albums by bands I’ve previously loved, such as the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Fleet Foxes and Iron & Wine, have been painfully disappointing. (Let’s not talk about Odd Future.) It’s a strange and largely disastrous time for indie rock, with nostalgia often cloaking an absence of songwriting chops and the creeping influence of the mainstream and a singles-hungry blogosphere sanding off its outsider idiosyncrasies. Nevertheless, there are still some pretty good records. Here are 10 of them. 

1. Destroyer – Kaputt | REVIEW | “Chinatown”: mp3
2. Radiohead – The King of Limbs | REVIEW
3. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse | LIVE REVIEW
4. Minks – By The Hedge | REVIEW | “Cemetery Rain”: mp3
5. Seeker Lover Keeper – s/t | REVIEW
6. Geotic – Mend | REVIEW | “Beaming Husband”: mp3
7. Puro Instinct – Headbangers in Ecstasy
8. Jill Andrews – The Mirror
9. Toro Y Moi – Underneath the Pine | REVIEW | “New Beat”: mp3
10. Brave Irene – Brave Irene EP | REVIEW